BWW Review: Operantic's LA SONNAMBULA Is A Beautiful Expression Of Bellini's Love Story
Saturday 1st October 2016, Independent Theatre, North Sydney
Jilted lovers, jealousy, lust, and small town gossip combine with a mysterious case of sleep walking in Vincenzo Bellini's romantic comedy LA SONNAMBULA. Sydney's relatively new, fledgling opera company Operantics presents this beautiful work with heart, humour and magnificent singing.
The town hall style of Independent Theatre has been utilised to present a chamber performance with minimal props and Emily Stuart Jones (Projection Design) projection of sketches which set the scenes at the rear of the two level stage. The sketches of the alpine village in which the story takes place are accompanied by surtitles (Tristan Entwistle: surtitles operator) to ensure the audience can follow the story but the ensemble's acting goes a long way to explain the story without the need to reference the screen. Ian Warwick and Victoria Parson's costuming reinforces the European alpine pastoral setting with the women in conservative Bavarian style bodices and skirts and the men in rural tweed jackets. The music, under the direction of Musical Director/Conductor Keiren Brandt-Sawdy is accompanied by Nataniel Kong on piano which sits to the side of the main stage.
The lead role of Amina is performed with amazing clarity and range by Joelene Griffith. Griffith gives the town sweetheart a pure beautiful voice that rings through the intimate theatre whilst still presenting a solid dramatization of the wrongly accused lover. She presents the songs with a heart-wrenching honesty that captures Amina's devoted love for Elvino along with the despair when she is falsely accused of having an affair with the visiting Count Rodolfo whose chamber she was found in following one of her sleepwalking events.
Amina's betrothed Elvino is presented with equal quality and passion by Michael Butchard. His warm tenor voice captures Elvino's devotion to Amina and the incredulous disbelief and disappointment that his love could betray him. Whilst Butchard presents a striking figure making sure Elvino is seen as the more desirable of the village men, he captures the sheep farmer's rural simplicity, aided by oversize costuming, so when compared to Count Rodolfo it becomes quickly apparent why he would worry that Amina's head would be turned by the Count's attentions.
Innkeeper and rival for Elvino's affections Lisa is presented with a fabulous sass and spite by Katie Miller-Crispe. Her soprano is given an edge to express Lisa's disgust at the town's fawning over Amina and the unbridled disappointment that Elvino left her for Amina. Whilst the role of lisa is a smaller part Miler-Crispe presents a delicious dramatization of the jilted lover forced to watch her love marry another whist being subjected to the unwanted affections of Alessio. Her facial expressions and physicality are wonderful in expressing Lisa's feelings even when she doesn't have the opportunity to voice her opinions
As the mysterious traveller, who we later discover is count Rodolfo, Christopher Nazarian embodies the handsome stranger that has the village women weak at the knees and he has a voice to match. His bold bass is imposing, reinforcing his power with it's gravitas. This strength is contrasted by Lisa's unwanted suitor Alessio, presented with simpering accuracy by Christopher Curcuruto who whilst also having a bold bass, ensures the audience sees Alessio as the least successful and therefore least desirable of the men.
The minor characters of Amina's adoptive mother Teresa (Jermaine Chau), the Notary ( Daniel Foles and the chorus (Stephanie Jones, Mikayla Tate, Joann Balasuriya, Charlotte Campbeel, Michael Handy, Bryan Tabada and Gerard Atkinson) are ably presented to help explain the story and fill out the sound.
Whilst the season for staged production LA SONNAMBULA was only short, Operantics will be presenting a concert version with Penrith Symphony Orchestra in November.
I look forward to seeing what Operantics delivers in the future and will be looking out for the young up and comers that have made the lead roles so memorable.